Guarantee a Productive Meeting When it Counts

Guarantee a Productive Meeting When it Counts

Have you ever attended a company retreat or planning meeting and left feeling great about the possibility of transformation for your company, only to find yourself wondering days later what was actually decided, done or delegated? What ever came of that brainstorming session? Loss of direction and lack of organized leadership can leave brilliant ideas floundering and your organization not reaching its potential.

The risk of a meeting going rogue or simply being a “nice” meeting seems to increase exponentially if it is meant to address “big picture” topics.  It’s the big ideas that lead to the most discussion and have the greatest potential for going off-point.

Discussions about developing a new mission or corporate strategy often float up in the clouds with little direct action and impact. For example, when I was attending a board meeting for an international nonprofit, one of the members suggested we form a travel group of members that would meet with foreign dignitaries and officials. It was a great idea with lots of marketing potential, but there remained the issue of coordination and management; who was setting up those meetings? Who would follow up? These questions were never addressed in the meeting and no person was designated to lead the effort going forward.  So staff was left with the option to either pursue the topic without direction or hope that it died (the latter occurred, to no surprise).

Having a non-profit background, I have seen many a board meeting or member conference get derailed due to the fundamental nature of what non-profits do.  Board members are almost always volunteers and want to “do good” and have impact for their cause.  They view these meetings as a time to put big ideas on the agenda.  When a menu of big picture ideas is on the table, finding consensus on a finite list of actionable items that actually work to achieve organizational mission is sometimes an elusive goal.  The result of this lack of focus is often a laundry list of ideas to consider and research to be done but no concrete steps toward action. You end up asking yourself, “Where did that meeting go wrong?”

Enter, the meeting facilitator! A person whose job it is to be forever in-charge, organized and focused—keeping the discussion constantly moving forward and down on the ground; providing a list of follow-up items and tying loose ends together. By definition, the facilitator is an outsider, a person with no stake in the discussion, but with clear vision and understanding of what needs to be accomplished.  Having witnessed the good, bad and the ugly, I strongly believe that the facilitator makes a tangible difference and —depending on the organization’s current market position— could be the difference between thriving and faltering, action and inaction or innovation and stagnation.

The meeting facilitator holds the objective insight and power to help a business or non-profit have meetings that actually propel them forward.  Facilitators ensure that strong brainstorming sessions are accompanied by a plan of action.  They drive key decision-making sessions to conclusions not just good discussion.  And the more-high stakes your meeting, the more vital it is to have facilitation.  If you want a productive meeting when it counts, use a facilitator to guide your group to success.